There’s lots of mountain bike advice out there, some of it good, some of it… not so good. Here’s some advice you might well hear, but probably shouldn’t to listen to.
Most mountain bikers are keen to offer their advice (whether that’s to be helpful or sound like they know what they’re talking about is up for debate), and particularly to those just getting started in the sport. What bike or suspension or groupset etc is best, how many gears you should have, what you should wear… it gets pretty exhausting, not to mention confusing!
The great thing about mountain biking though is that it’s mostly about personal preference, so something that works for your best mate might not be so great for you.
Here are five very commonly offered pieces of advice that you definitely should not listen to. And don’t be afraid to go out and experiment!
1. Lighter is always better
It’s drilled into us early on that when it comes to our bikes, components and anything else related to mountain biking, lighter is always better.
This can sometimes be true, but there’s only so far you can go before you start to sacrifice strength and handling in the name of shedding weight.
In the last few years the tide has changed, with downhill riders experimenting by adding small weights to their frames, which in turn makes for a more controlled and calmer ride.
Point being, weight – or the lack of it – isn’t everything, especially if you’re all about the descents, so don’t stress if you don’t have the lightest bike or components.
2. “All you need is a T-shirt, mate”
‘Don’t worry about all that fancy clothing mate, all you need is a T-shirt!’ This is an oft heard quote at the local trail centre, and while a T-shirt isn’t going to kill you, it isn’t always the best for mountain biking.
Dedicated technical clothing is cut for a riding position and has fancy fabrics that will keep you warmer/drier/cooler and less stinky than a bog standard T-shirt; in short, all things that’ll make your riding life a happier one.
And if you really don’t want to ride in a mountain bike specific top, we’d definitely recommend wearing a base layer underneath your T-shirt. That way you can still look cool and casual, but with a secret layer of technical garment geekery underneath.
3. Always ride with people better than you
‘The only way to improve is to always ride with people who are better than you.’ Hmmm, once again there is a grain of truth to this advice. Riding with people who will gradually stretch your limits and give you some helpful advice is a viable way to improve.
But, riding with an impatient group of shredders is also a sure fire way of ending up way out of your depth on scary terrain, leading to some bad experiences.
Amazing riders may be amazing. However they can give questionable advice. Phrases like ‘Err I dunno, just hit it really fast’ might make sense to them, but it won’t help less experienced riders like us.
So make sure you spend some time riding solo or with friends of a similar level, that way you can progress at your own speed and lessen the chance of a nasty crash
4. You should always start out riding a hardtail
‘Beginners should start out on a hardtail, that way they’ll learn proper riding technique’, is a long held, dare we say it, old school belief that doesn’t really hold true in modern mountain biking.
Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with learning on a hardtail if that’s what you want to do. But if you’re into downhill, enduro or gnarly trail riding, then rattling down a scary descent on a bone shaking hardtail sounds, well, rubbish to us.
Modern trail bikes are so good that you can get a decent fully sprung bike at a price that’s more affordable than in years gone by. So we think there’s no harm in skipping the hardtail, and going straight to the (super fun) full suspension bike when first starting out.
5. Avoid your front brake
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‘Use more of the back brake, then you won’t go over the bars.’ Yes this will prevent you from going over the bars, but it will also prevent you from stopping quickly enough, leading to an unfortunate encounter with a tree.
Good braking technique involves modulating both your front and back brakes to slow yourself down as quick as possible without loosing control.
There will be situations where you do need to avoid the front brake, but in general, it’s the best chance you have of slowing yourself down as quickly as is possible, so don’t feel like you can use it.